Saturday, March 10, 2012

Last weekend was the first race on my 2012 season at Roebling Road Raceway. This was the start of my 41st season of racing without missing a year. In fact, I doubt I've gone more that six months without racing since Memorial Day weekend, 1972. I spent Fri. at the track in 80 degree weather setting up my pits, warming up my 350 ERTT Harley Sprint, registering and running through tech. But, I didn't actually practice on the track. I figured the track was the same and my bike was the same and the two sessions Sat. morn before racing would be plenty. My bike was the same, but I had put in new rings and a new 4th gear on the layshaft. When I put the cases back together, I didn't have a Cometic gasket that I usually use, so I used an original Harley gasket which, I realized later, is a good deal thinner. This reduced the end float on the shift drum causing enough drag that the selector didn't want to 're-cock' on downshifts. I didn't want to take the cases apart again, so I hoped things would settle in and maybe the cases would grow when they got hot reducing the drag on the shift drum.
Pre-entries were quite light in my classes, so I was surprised and please to see my arch-nemesis and good friend Paul Germain had come down from Winnipeg, Manitoba (1800 miles and 30 hrs. by himself) with his very fast DT-1 based Yamaha. He had done more development work on it over the winter and was pleased how it went in practice.
When it was announce Sat. morn that there would be only one round of practice, then straight into racing with no lunch break, to try to beat the violent storm that was coming, I wondered if I had made the wrong decision on Fri. practice. But, the bike worked well Sat. am and shifted OK as I had hoped.
Germain didn't show up Sat., however, as he was convinced by the weather report that we'd be racing in the rain. As his body has gotten a bit beat up over the years, including a broken hand less than a year ago, he decided he wouldn't race in the rain. But, as it turned out, all three of his races were run in the dry before the rains came. So in 350gp, I led overall for about half the race until first Rabbie Demetrius on his 350 Honda, then Dave Crussell on his Kawasaki Bighorn came by from the 2nd wave in F-250. I sort of hung with them for a bit but was out of touch by the time we got the checker. I went back out immediately for the 500 Premiere race. Gridded behind, but in the same wave was Alex McLean on a Norton Manx and Todd Narduzzi on a CB450 Honda based racer in 500GP. I led overall for a couple of laps until Todd came by on the straight.
Todd Narduzzi about to pass me

#236 Todd Narduzzi 500 Honda twin

I got back by him and in the twisty bits and he came by again on the straight followed by Alex. Alex got by Todd, then I got by Todd.

#122 Alex Mclean Norton Manx

If I got right on the Manx' rear wheel, I could stay in the draft, and I got by Alex again
when he checked up a little early for a backmarker in turn #1. But, they both got by me and creeped away enough that I didn't see that Todd just pipped Alex at the line. Good fun and a pleasure riding with those two. It just started to spit in that race. Race #7 had a bit of rain, Race #8 was wet, Race #9 had standing water. It was decided to put off Race #10 until Sun. as it is a slick tire class, and they went straight to Race #11. This race got red flagged when the funnel cloud was spotted not far away. Racing was done by 12:30pm, so a few of us went to the Mighty 8th Airforce Museum in
nearby Pooler. It's an excellent museum with a multi screen theater with a film which give a fair idea of a WWII bombing mission. They're restoring a B-17 there and also had a P-51, an Me 109, and a Stearman trainer. The museum has special interest to me as my father flew B-17's in the 306th bomb group of the 8th Airforce from Thurleigh, England late in WWII.

All photos by Jerry Masters

Sun. the rain stopped early and the sun came out, but it was nearly 20 degrees cooler and there was a strong head wind. I added one tooth to the rear, but probably should have gone two. In the 350gp, Germain got me off the line and led for a couple of laps when I drafted by him and led a lap or two. But, Paul was demon in Turn #1 and got back by. I again got by on the straight and was leading in the last turn of the race. I had been having some chatter which seemed to upset the carburetion and the motor would stumble. Paul drove around the outside in this last corner and I wasn't able to get back by before the start/finish line. An excellent race. Again, immediately back out for the 500 Premiere race, but the motor didn't want to take a throttle and I bogged off the line and the motor would stumble whenever I opened the throttle more than a hair. I pulled off after the end of the 1st lap. I haven't found anything obviously wrong and the best theory I have is low battery. It read 5.92 volts (it's a 6 volt battery), which I would have thought was enough, but it may have been dropping much lower under load. I hadn't charged it Sat. night. Anyway, it was a good start to the season and, at this point, I lead the 350gp and 2nd in 500 Premiere class.
Driving back home on Mon., I hit heavy snow in Virgina and cars were spinning out but, by D.C. the roads were bone dry. I enjoyed all four seasons in the long weekend.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed revisiting Roebling via Jerry Masters photos & your narrative. AHRMA and participants met the challenges of the weather! Some impressive 'statistics': Don H's bike still going at 44 years, Paul G's travelling 1800 miles, and your 41st consecutive season start!
    (Was it the battery level?)